Gov’t 2.0 is a set of ideals. Web 2.0 is a set of tools

I keep hearing people confuse “gov’t 2.0” and “web 2.0.” The gov’t using a web 2.0 tool isn’t gov’t 2.0. It might be a sign gov’t 2.0 is taking hold, and it might be an example of the right approach, but it’s not the actual thing itself.

Here’s how I think of it.

Gov’t 2.0 means reaching out in new ways to engage people in helping lead, create policy, etc. It’s not linked to a particular technology. It will usually be accomplished using technology, but at its best, I think it’ll mix up good old-fashioned things like town meetings with stuff like blogs, wikis, and webinars.

Web 2.0 is a set of tools that can help us get to gov’t 2.0. But you can’t just throw up a blog and claim success.

Here at EPA, we’re going to dip the very tip of our toenail into gov’t 2.0 by opening up a blog to discuss changes in a regulation for how we calculate the Air Quality Index. We’re not diving in because there are legal, policy, and staff support issues to work out. But don’t despair; we’ll be doing triple backflips with 1 1/2 twists before long.

The ideal (gov’t 2.0) is engagement, on a scale far beyond the typical “open up a docket and see what people send in.” The technology (web 2.0) is a blog.

See the difference?

Well, if not, it’s late on a Friday and I’ll try again. Or you could share your own thinking.

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Jesse Wilkins

Web 2.0 = tech, Govt 2.0 = state of mind. It includes engagement but I think it even goes beyond that. It’s a state of mind that embraces transparency and accountability with a bias towards openness. The fact that Web 2.0 tools make it easy for someone, Govt or otherwise, to be open and to be held accountable is IMHO just a bonus.

Here’s an example: Govt 2.0 thinks it’s a good thing to provide self-service to FOIA requests and make it as easy as possible for the citizenry to see what their government is up to – at all levels and with a bias towards making information available. In other words, if some information is to be held closely, such as public safety-related information, the agency makes the case as to why that particular information should be held. If it’s not a good reason, it’s made available.

Ingrid Koehler

I’m not sure…I think there’s always been a wish for what you describe as Gov2.0, not by all but certainly by some. But it was difficult, time-consuming, expensive and for some niche issues – downright impossible. But what really makes Gov2.0 different is the technology. Now the aspirational is possible – though not inevitable. Absolutely 100% agree though that Gov2.0 is not JUST about the web2.0 tools. If you only use the web tools, you’ll be creating just another set of barriers to participation. So yes, a good old mix of the old and the new.

Pam Broviak

I have even come to think of the Web 2.0 as something that can refer to the tools you describe OR to the philosophy or ideals that you mention. When someone refuses to share online with the community, I say to others, “That is so not Web 2.0,” meaning it does not meet the ideals on which Web 2.0 operates.

Jed Sundwall

Thanks for this Jeffrey,

“Gov’t 2.0 means reaching out in new ways” may become my new mantra. I believe the real payout of social media for government will come from simple, low-cost, interactions between public servants and the public. As Ingrid says, there’s always been a wish for these interactions, but it’s been prohibitively costly or time consuming.

I don’t care where it happens, or with what technology, but I want more executive support for public servants to read blogs, read forums, leave comments, and connect with people online. It’s myriad simple transactions like these that will allow the public to inform policy. Dept of Education staffers can’t attend every PTA in the country, but they can pay attention to popular mommy blogs or other sources of relevant discussion. Furthermore, imagine how talented and thoughtful public servants and policy makers could elevate the quality of online discourse if they were encouraged (or allowed) to contribute to discussions online.

I also have a laundry list of actual software that I’d like to see the government adopt (wikis! cookies!), but that’s another discussion. For now, thanks for the reminder that engagement by public servants is the fuel that powers Govt 2.0.

Craig Thomler

Interesting thoughts Jeffrey,

I’m reading Groundswell at the moment and the book very clearly makes a point that I sometimes struggle to communicate well to my government colleagues. Government 2.0 is about a way of doing business which includes increased transparency, pro-active engagement and am innovation-based culture (rather than a risk-adverse/blame avoidance culture).

Web 2.0 are some of the technologies that can be used to support the transition, but are not the transition itself.

Leaders in the political and public sector space need to model Government 2.0 attitudes and behaviours, then allow their agencies to come up with innovative ways to realise these behaviours – whatever the channel or technology being used.

Often social media evangalists get too far ahead of the market, focusing on cutting edge technologies which frankly scare political leaders and agency heads. Instead they need to focus on the goals of the organisations and the benefits of Government 2.0 attitudes and behaviours in achieving these goals – the ‘why’. Once there is agreement on these the approaches (the ‘how’) can become part of the discussion.

Kim Patrick Kobza

Great thoughts. I would like to see this whole discussion expanded dramatically.

For your consideration.

Let’s agree that gov 2.0 is more cultural/behavioral than descriptive of a particular technology.
Said another way, there are multiple business objectives which can be addressed with solutions that enable networks to build collective intelligence through exchange, interaction, and connection.

The objectives in government agencies are largely different from those in private industry and consumer brands in significant ways. For example:

(1) Government agencies primarily use citizen networks for decision support – to identify solution possibilities.
(2) Citizen participation can often best add value if it is designed for inclusion, and specifically to find the cognitive outliers. It is more dependent on ensuring independence of opinion, and less targeted to building “social” relationships. i.e., as I might go to a public meeting to express an informed opinion, not to make friends, but while there may make friends. See Infotopia by Cass R. Sustein.
(3) Government agencies uniquely rely heavily upon hybrid networks: open citizen networks, and closed networks of project teams working together to achieve a result – for instance to manage a project. By example: A transportation or environmental planning project with citizens acting in an open network, and engineers and planners working in a closed supporting network. This is a different architecture than that supported by simple web 2.0 tools like blogs, wiki’s etc
(4) Effective citizen participation depends upon the availability of referential information – in other words public comment by definition provides a citizen with the ability to access the baseline of information being used by decision makers to make an informed decision. Web 2.0 tools do not always provide this ability, though sometimes may.

In the future, government agencies will logically design multiple business services supported from one platform, designed to support network behaviors and participation by citizens and agency officials to solve a specific set of business problems. More to come on this vision.